By – John Williamson

The options for a moderately priced, well-constructed PC steering wheels are quite slim and restricted to the Thrustmaster T100 and Logitech Driving Force GT.  Providing a responsive wheel which is comfortable to use at an affordable price point is challenging considering the materials required.  Thrustmaster has an illustrious history when it comes to no compromise higher end products such as the T500RS which is still the best wheel on the market for competitive use. Can Thrustmaster use this expertise to create a groundbreaking albeit much cheaper racing wheel without cutting too many corners?

Thrustmaster package the item in an attractive black cardboard box which contains extremely detailed high resolution photos of the wheel and creates an aura that you are purchasing a quality piece of kit.  Furthermore, on one side there is a comprehensive diagram outlining the wheel’s key features and patented technology.  The packaging itself includes two sturdy top flaps designed to add some rigidity to the box and offer additional protection during transit.  The wheel and pedals are separated by cardboard pieces so you can easily remove each item without scratching the other.

From an aesthetic standpoint, the T100 is understated and rather plain for my tastes.  The wheel employs a matte black finish and subtle T logo with plastic bolts surrounding this centre point.  Underneath the logo is an LED indicator light which is particularly useful during the initial setup.  I would have preferred to see a dash of colour maybe to the base, shifters or buttons.  This lack of colour on the buttons does create a wealth of confusion as the indented text is black on a black background.  As a result, it is virtually impossible to quickly glance at each button and know what you are pressing.  I can only just about see the text in a brightly lit room so you will struggle to read the buttons during normal use. Thrustmaster should have used white paint for the text as it would have stood out in a vivid manner on a black background.

ThrustmasterT100 Force Review 1

Mounting the wheel to a desk or professional cockpit is ridiculously simple and only takes a few moments to setup.  All you have to do is feed the long threaded screw with a plastic handle through the clamp and into the base.  Once the wheel is in position, you turn the plastic lever until tight and check that the base is right up against your desk.  When affixed properly, the wheel is solid and doesn’t move about whatsoever even if you have a sudden change of direction using an aggressive driving style.

Connecting the pedals is a straightforward process and requires you to plug in a single modem style cable into the base.  This connection clicks in so there isn’t a chance of the lead flying out if you knock over the pedals or move them suddenly. However, the cable management is poor because the pedal lead is far too short and won’t reach unless it’s placed upright and around your desk.  As such, this cable is stuck near your seating position and can get in the way sometimes. If the lead was longer, you could have slotted it behind a desk and created a cleaner look.  This is a shame because there are grooves in the pedals’ base to have a certain degree of cable management but this concept is overawed by the overly short lead.  The T100 uses a 2 pin AC adapter which plugs into a standard 3 pin accessory to power the wheel.  This is only the case for European models though as the non-EU T100 units are powered by an external power supply.  Now we move onto the software installation portion.

The software installation is a bit confusing because this product is detected as the Thrustmaster F430 wheel.  There’s no need to be alarmed though as the install process is identical.  First and foremost, you have to download the software package from here http://ts.thrustmaster.com/eng/index.php?pg=view_files&gid=1&fid=2&pid=364&cid=1.  With the wheel unplugged, complete the installation and restart your computer.  After you have logged into Windows, plug in the USB cable and be patient as the drivers are automatically installed.  To configure the wheel, locate Game Controllers from the Control Panel and click Advanced to launch the Thrustmaster suite.  The first tab is a testing procedure to ensure everything operates properly and there is no latency when turning the wheel.  By default, Automatic Centering is disabled and allows each game to automatically configure the sensitivity.  The majority of modern games will do this once without the need to adjust anything so I would recommend keeping this feature disabled.

ThrustmasterT100 Force Review 1

Within the software tool, you can alter a wide range of force feedback attributes.  For example, you can change the Master, Static, Dynamic and Aggressivity features on a ratio of 0-100%.  This provides a huge scale of customizability and lets you play about with the settings until you find a balance which suits your driving style.  The Touchsense Technology creates an incredible and surprisingly varied feel when driving on various surfaces.  During rally events in WRC4, your hands can sense the gravel passing over a vehicle’s tire treads. In Assetto Corsa, I experienced a staggering amount of feedback and knew when the rear tires were losing grip.  There are other additions designed to emulate mechanical failures and more extreme moments during chaotic races. The T100’s force feedback is majestic and a huge selling point for a wheel in this price range.

The T100’s build quality is impressive due to its use of durable and resilient plastic.  I was blown away by the mounting system and large base which means the wheel never moves about during gameplay.  The wheel itself has a premium finish and is quite heavy which resembles something you would use in a real sports car.  Thrustmaster have opted to use a metal axle and ball bearing system and this makes the steering motion beautifully smooth.  I cannot fault the steering mechanism as it virtually silent and operates above what you would expect at this price.

Another highlight is the rubber trim as your hands naturally fall into this position because a different material is used from the main plastic body.  The high quality rubber has a grippy surface to allow for greater comfort.  The sequential gears have a clicky, tactile feel and only just protrude outwards from the main wheel.  This allowed me to gently change gear whilst holding a natural steering position.  The only alteration I would make is perhaps adding some soft cushioning material on the gears to allow for a better grip.  Nevertheless, the gears are proficiently made and built to a last for a very long time.

ThrustmasterT100 Force Review 1

On the other hand, I was fairly dejected when examining the pedal stand based on its weight and construction.  The entire unit just feels too light and I was concerned about applying a sudden amount of force on the brake pedal.  Luckily enough, the pedals make up for this as they have a good amount of support and require a large actuation force to depress.  The brake pedal utilizes progressive resistance and this results in a lot of control when you need to reduce your overall speed.  This gradual nature allows you to feather the brake and keep a good amount of momentum in mid-speed S bends.

The pedal stand also features a number of intriguing inclusions such as the textured footrest.  This flat surface cushions your ankles and makes the experience a lot more comfortable.  Amazingly enough, you can even adjust each pedal’s angle of inclination. This is useful because you can alter the pedal height according to your foot size.  I’m a size 9 and the default upright setting fitted my feet perfectly.  Other people with smaller feet may find a tilted angle more comfortable and natural for their foot size.

I tested the wheel on a number of modern titles including F1 2013, GRID Autosport, Assetto Corsa and many more which were all a delight to play as there were no issues with steering lag.  The T100 wheel only supports a 270 degree angle of rotation and not the full 900 degrees featured on higher end models like the Logitech G27.  However, you cannot argue for the moderate price given that a 270 degree rotation should be ample for most consumers who seek to add a new dimension to a wealth of racing games.

ThrustmasterT100 Force Review 1

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

The Thrustmaster T100 is an extraordinary steering wheel given the superb force feedback, tactile gears and impeccable build quality.  This package is far from perfect as the pedals could have a more substantial feel to them. I would also suggest a new and more comprehensive instruction manual because it sometimes doesn’t explain things very well and relies on small and difficult to decipher images.  Despite these minor reservations, I can wholeheartedly say that the T100 is a fantastic value-for-money proposition and excels in most departments.

Thrustmaster T100 Wheel Summary:

Print

  • Time Used – 6 Days
  • Defects – None
  • Included Pedals and Wheel
  • Acquisition Method – Review Unit
  • Availability – Newegg, Amazon
  • Games Played – F1 2013, WRC 4, GRID Autorsport, Assetto Corsa
  • System Specs – Intel I7 4770K, 16GB RAM, Sapphire R9 290 4GB

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  • trincetto

    I don’t know much about steering wheels, but I been curious for some time about them. I tried one sometimes at a friend’s house, but I don’t play enough racing games to justify buying an expensive one — although the review piqued my interest.
    This wheel sounds like a good product and not too expensive, although I’m not fond of it from an aesthetic standpoint (the buttons are really quite bad and, as you say, look all too similar).
    Very in-depth review as usual, with attention to detail: the information about packaging, installation, etc., really give you an idea of what you’re getting when buying the product.

    • John Williamson

      Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s an excellent wheel feel wise and build quality but the colour scheme is too simple for my tastes and doesn’t evoke a sense of enthusiasm. A product should make you think, WOW! I want to use it, and this first impression comes from the aesthetics. The only other wheel I would recommend is the Logitech Driving Force GT.

      Here’s a link to the product on Amazon.. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Logitech-Driving-Force-GT-official/dp/B00CM2R19C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409012935&sr=8-1&keywords=driving+force+gt

      Thank you for the kind words, they really do mean a lot, and encourages me to write even better in the future!

      • trincetto

        The Logitech Driving Force GT seems the better option, I prefer its look too: it seems fun to use and clear without being too flashy. I’ll consider it in case I end buying a steering wheel!

        • John Williamson

          Great! as mentioned in the review, there aren’t a lot of steering wheels on the market, seems more of a niche product these days.

          • trincetto

            It’s mostly controllers this days, isn’t it? Gaming peripherals like joystick and steering wheels are becoming more and more rare. Maybe the current VR trend will bring something new?

  • mauler77

    nice review. i’m definitely going to pick one of these up to use with my PS4 once Project CARS is released in Nov. works with Driveclub too i hear. sounds like a good wheel for the money, especially as no Logitech support for PS4.

    • John Williamson

      Yep, it’s a great wheel and the only real alternative to the Logitech Driving Force GT. The compatibility issue with the PS4 is pretty shocking considering how much certain wheels can cost. I think Logitech has upset quite a lot of its customer base. There is sometimes the odd rumor of a fix being applied, but I doubt it’s going to happen.

  • Jas

    Just purchased the T100 to play with DriveClub. Downside is no share button but the upside is it costs £80 and feels great. For the amateur racers out there wanting a little extra then you cannot go wrong.

    • John Williamson

      Yeah, the package might be a bit rough and ready, but for the price, the wheel feels fantastic!

  • REM

    Hi, was thinking of picking one of these up – the 300RS it just too much. Is the rotation ok? Does that ever become an issue?

    • John Williamson

      That’s a difficult one to answer since it’s all down to user preference. The rotation isn’t a massive issue and feels perfectly fine when cornering on extreme apex’s and chicanes. Of course, a 900 degree rotation will have a more realistic feel but I don’t think it will detract that much from the core racing experience.